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18th Street Brewery: A Good Reason To Visit Gary

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 11, 2014 8:20PM

It's been six months since Drew Fox opened 18th Street Brewery in Gary, Indiana after an aggressive bout of fundraising that included a Kickstarter campaign and various tastings around Chicago. I finally made my way to 18th Street a couple weekends ago via the South Shore Line, to see how Fox and the brewery was doing.

It turns out that Fox is not only doing well, he's thriving. In fact, on the day of my visit his tasting room was filled with Blackhawks fans making the trip to Soldier Field for some outdoor hockey, the standard assortment of beer geeks and locals from Gary and other points of Northwest Indiana. When Fox announced his plans to open a brewery in Gary I wrote it would take some "chutzpah and commitment" and Fox had plenty of each. His faith was unwavering throughout the buildout and has been rewarded with a loyal and growing customer base as well as Fox being named best new brewer in Indiana by the user review site, proving once again that if you have a good product and business plan, people will help it succeed.

Chicagoist "Beer of the Week" columnist Jason Baldacci gave me a scouting report of 18th Street prior to my trek. "Expect a lot of heavy beers," Jason said. As the South Shore line passed parts of Gary that resembled a cross between a Jean Shepherd essay and the fallout from a Moody's credit downgrade I tried to remain objective as the train approached Gary's Miller station. 18th Street is located a short walk (two blocks) away from the station; a set of freight rails separates 18th Street Brewery from the amazing Miller Pizza Co.

I found Fox busy hauling kegs in his brewhouse and overseeing some new construction happening in his space, which was a dry cleaners in a previous life. A look at the beer menu reminded me why I should remain objective regardless of the intel I receive. Of the five beers available, two were session ales and none was higher than 9 percent alcohol by volume. But all of 18th Street's selections were teeming with flavor and exhibited amazing balance between malt and hops, exactly as Fox learned as an apprentice brewer at Pipeworks Brewing. What was most impressive of 18th Street's brews was a focus on classic hop varietals. "You won't see us throwing Citra hops into every beer we brew," Fox said. Instead he works with classic hop varietals like Cascade, Simcoe and Amarillo.

While beer geeks and Gary residents have embraced 18th Street Brewery, Fox recognizes his fight is far from over and admits local officials have responded to the brewery with mild affirmations. "I know the city is fighting an uphill battle," he said, "but they should be embracing every business that decides to call Gary home."

18th Street Brewery is located at 5725 Miller Ave. in Gary. Hours of operation are 3 p.m.- 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; noon- midnight Friday and Saturday and noon - 8 p.m. Sunday.